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Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Exaltation of the Cross

“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” NB 21:8

The cross has almost always been important symbol for Christians. Although controversial at first, because it seemed to focus so much on the violence done to Jesus, the cross soon became the most prominent way for Christians to announce themselves. Not simply a reminder of Christ's gruesome death, the cross is also a invitation to celebrate Jesus' triumph over death, and our assurance that death is not the end of Christian journey.

Displaying the cross publicly or personally should never be a condemnation of others, especially Jews, but a reminder to ourselves and others, that God came among us as human person who not only announced God's love for us in its fullness, but also handed himself over to death as a symbol of his total identification with us at every stage of our journey.

Although we might at times be too casual about it, signing ourselves with the cross is a powerful reminder of Jesus triumph of over sin and death and sign that Jesus, "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, ...made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Col 2:15)

Today, make the sign of the cross as you wake and ask for the grace to accept whatever the day brings.

What does the Cross mean to you?

Friday, September 12, 2014

St John Chrysostom

"The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one Body, for we all partake of the one loaf." 1Cor 10: 16-17

It is clear in the Gospel that there is little more important to Jesus then the unity of his disciples. Near the end of St John's Gospel he asks his father for a final gift, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you....that the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (Jn 17:20-21, 23)

Our unity with one another is the sign that that Jesus came from God and is God. We have only to seek unity with one another in Christ in order to preach the truth of the Gospel that Jesus has come for the salvation of all. Anything that inhibits this unity must be resisted, especially the use of power and wealth as weapons to control others.

St John Chrysostom, who desired only to live simply as a monk, was called to be bishop Constantinople, one of the most important sees in the 4th century. A dynamic preacher, John was alarmed that the lifestyle of the bishops and the wealthy was so distancing them from the poor that the unity of the church was threatened. Setting a very simple table, he challenged everyone to think first of their unity in Christ and not of their ability to eat better than others! Eventually, his pointed sermons so upset the rulers of his day that he was exiled from Constantinople and died.

Today, pray for unity with someone from whom you have been separated.

What do you think are the greatest challenges to the unity of the Body of Christ?




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Obligations

"Brothers and sisters: If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!" 1 Cor 9:16

All of us have obligations. Parents must impart values to their children, not simply in word, but in action. Friends need to be honest with friends, especially when someone is acting in a self destructive way. And all of us must try to be supportive of one another as people of the earth. The kind of competitiveness that drives us to destroy other peoples and nations hurts everyone and can only lead to further violence.

St Paul reminds us that our biggest and most important obligation is to preach the Gospel. Paul, of course, preached it in word and became the single most important voice of the early church. Announcing the Good News in what today is Rome, Turkey, Greece, Syria and Cyprus, Paul took his obligation seriously to go to the end of the earth and tell everyone he met about what Jesus had done for him. Just as important, Paul's interpretation of the Gospel, articulated in his letters, became the ground upon which the early church built a theology and that continues to serve us well.

It is important, from time to time to review our obligations, not just to family and society, but to the challenge of preaching the Good News with our lives. If we can honestly tell ourselves and God that we are trying to be disciples of Jesus, nothing much else matters.

Today, ask yourself how God wants you to preach the Gospel?

Who preaches the Gospel in a way that helps you live it??


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loving our Enemies

"Jesus said to his disciples: “'To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.'" Lk 6:27

The command of Jesus to love our enemies was not a theoretical challenge to the earliest community of disciples. It was a visceral and demanding trial. When we read the Gospels it becomes very clear that Jesus' message is upsetting to the Jewish leaders who very much wanted both to pacify their Roman rulers and control the behavior of everyday Jews. Concerned that they would lose their moral authority to Jesus and his band of fisherman and shepherds, the Scribes and Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up at every turn, and while some of the disciples wanted Jesus to fight, the Lord acted like any Rabbi, debating with his protagonists but loving them all the while.

How to offer people and institutions a critique of their ideas without criticizing them personally is an important and difficult task, especially for Christians. While we have core values about which there is little debate, there is and ought to be healthy conversation about how to proclaim these values is a world obsessed with instant communication. From texting to Instagram and so much more in between, we need to learn how to say and live what we believe without angry and dismissive pronouncements. Christians on the right and the left can be fiercely judgmental when upset by another's opinion and perspective. Nonetheless, Jesus' command to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us prevails and remains the heart of the Good News.

Today,  pause before you respond to someone with whom you disagree.

How do you understand Jesus' challenge to love your enemies?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Denounced for the Lord

"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man."

Scholars write often about what they call the "hard sayings" of Jesus, but some of these are also dangerous. At the time of Jesus, the earliest believers were forced to make painful choices. Unwelcome in the synagogue when they refused to renounce their claim that Jesus was the Messiah of God, the first Christians had very little to ground their lives. Already poor, they were now ostracized, and their isolation was deep. Because they responded with courageous faith, we exist!

Contemporary Christians must often face similar struggles, but it would be a mistake and a different kind of danger to reduce our faith to a set of formulas. Our faith ought to be dangerous because of how we live, not just by what we say. Only when we remember that Jesus stood with the poor and reminded everyone that the last would be first and the first last, can we be sure that we are doing God's will. If we live as if the only thing that matters is our material, financial or national security and refuse to see others as brothers and sisters in the God who loves all as his children, we are not being faithful to the whole Gospel.

Today, ask God to help you discern whether you are living your faith courageously, not just stubbornly.

Whose faith do you most admire as reflective of Christ's inclusive love?


Monday, September 8, 2014

St Peter Claver

"Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve." Lk 6:12

How should believers make decisions? That is the question posed by today's Gospel. Jesus, our model for all things Christian, says little directly about this, but offers us a clear example. By going to a mountain and spending the entire night in prayer before choosing the apostles, Jesus challenges us to do the same. It is not so much that we can or ought to spend entire nights in prayer, but that we take time away from our everyday lives in order to discern what it is God wants us to be and do.

Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, encouraged her sisters to pray beforehand about any decision they needed to make and insisted that every word of the rule they practiced was the fruit of prayer. But it is Catherine's image of prayer as a plant that continues to challenge us today. "Prayer is a plant, the seed of which must be nourished or it will die." Put another way, Jesus and Catherine might say: Water and feed the plants of your faith life with prayer if you expect them to grow.

When young people are making decisions about marriage, children and family we are tempted to surround them with gifts and money. Wouldn't it be better to hold them in prayer so that they will hear God calling them to transformation and service in whatever vocation they choose?

Today, spend ten minutes more than usual in prayer.

Has prayer with a help to you in making important decisions?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Nativity of Mary

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Rom 8:28

Although we know it is true, all of us occasionally doubt that all we experience works together for the good. Too many bad things have happened to everyone to simply affirm Paul's teaching to the Romans. When God told Abraham that he wanted to make a covenant with him, Abraham was excited but then remembered that a Covenant with God was going to bind him unto death and he fell into a deep and terrifying sleep.

Frightened that he would fail God and die, Abraham wakes to discover that God has changed the rules. Though Abraham would suffer many trials, God's covenant was unilateral and complete. God was not threatening Abraham with death but promising him he would never be alone. As long as he listened and obeyed God's commands, he would be the Father of many nations.

God's promise to Mary completes the circle. God will work through Mary to remind all of us that the promise made to Abraham was only the beginning. Not only will God walk with us always, God will become one of us through Mary. What more could we ask?

Today, pray that God will help you see all as gift.

How can you make everything work together for good in your life?